New research has revealed that British hospitals are among the worst in the western world for leaving surgical items inside patients.


The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) compared data from 16 countries in the industrialised world.


The report places the UK as the sixth worst in the league tables, with 5.5 cases of retained instruments per 100,000 people discharged from hospital.


In comparison Belgium had the best record with just 0.5 cases per 100,000 patients.


‘Never event’


Leaving a surgical instrument inside a patient is considered a ‘never event’ in England and Wales. This means that the incident should not happen if the correct safety measures are followed.


In the case of retained surgical instruments, medical practitioners should count the items used before and after the procedure.


Despite these safety measures, patients are still being left with surgical swabs, dressings and needles inside them. There were 102 cases in England over the past year alone.


There has even been one incident where a woman was left with seven inch forceps inside her for three months following a gallbladder removal.


When she began to suffer excruciating pain, doctors sent her for an MRI scan. The magnetic field from the scan moved the forceps inside her body, making it feel like something was trying to “pull through her skin”.


“A matter of pot luck”


Joyce Robins, the co-director of Patient Concern, said: “It should be made a legal requirement that the checklist of instruments be read out loud and ticked off at the end of each surgical procedure.”


“It should not be a matter of pot luck whether some instrument is left inside the patient.”


An NHS spokesperson said: “Any mistake of this kind is one too many. We are determined to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world and have one of the most open and transparent reporting systems in place. We are working hard to identify practical ways to ensure such errors are eradicated.”


Talk to a solicitor


Having a surgical instrument left inside your body can be extremely serious. Not only will you have to undergo another procedure to remove the item, there is also a risk that it will lead to infection, sepsis and organ failure.


If you or your loved one has suffered as a result of a retained surgical instrument, you should talk to a solicitor about a medical negligence claim. Contact us for more information.


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